I learn so much about a person from just their eyes. Sometimes I feel like I can see right through if I get the privilege of a few moments of eye contact. Joy, sadness, freedom, bondage, peace, anxiety — all are pretty easy to see.
What about confidence and security? Definitely. We read the first chapter of Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling today, and one of the things that stood out to me was the deep respect that came from being able to “stare down” another animal. Mowgli (the boy) “discovered that if he stared hard at any wolf, the wolf would be forced to drop his eyes.” And when Mowgli discovers the wolves’ plot against him, Bagheera (the panther) says, “The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine, because thou art wise.”
That one act – locking eyes with another, seeing who could hold gaze – was the hinge point that communicated everything else.
We train our kids to “look people in the eye” when they are being spoken to or responding to someone. I don’t think it always comes naturally to a child who is locking eyes with someone twice their size. But as they do it, they receive “positive feedback” – respect and kindness from the adult – and so begin developing a habit of confidence, respect, and self-respect.
As a mom of boys, I have learned that one of the best ways to get their attention when making a request is to say, “look at my eyes.” Then, I’m able to tell if the information made the connection to the brain, heart and then the feet/hands.
As a wife, it’s incredible, but there are some mornings when Don and I just start off moving and busy, and before we know it, much time has passed without ever even looking into each other’s eyes. We’re “around” each other but not totally “seeing/with” each other. I love it when he stops me in my tracks, lifts chin up to see his face – I just melt. Nothing else matters at that moment. I see. I love. And I know I am loved.
As a woman, one of my favorite things is to sit across the table from another woman and “lock eyes” with each other. (I think I’m borrowing this phrase from my friend, Heather.) Actually, location really doesn’t matter – just undistracted moments with another female. And if one of us is sharing a story that touches a cord, once we see the eyes start to blur or tinge pink, that’s it – both of us are wiping tears. I like connecting like that.
But I also think we as women can give gifts with eye contact, especially to those who are hurting, weary, or insecure. It’s easy to spot – darting eyes, sad stares to a far-off place. When we notice that and try to authentically connect with eye contact, we can communicate understanding, comfort, hope, and offer dignity when the person is not feeling especially dignified.
What do you notice when you look at people’s eyes? What do you want to communicate with your own? It’s tough – we usually can’t “choose” what to communicate. Our eyes just reflect the inward reality.